Sarah Vincent reflects on her experience of the HARDCOPY program run by the ACT Writers Centre.
Every year at this time I bang on about a manuscript development program called HARDCOPY run by the ACT Writers centre. I was lucky enough to be accepted into the program in 2015 and it led directly to my memoir being picked up by an agent and published by Penguin Random House in 2017.
Applications for HARDCOPY 2018 are now open and close on March 16. Pass me my drum – it’s banging time.
HARDCOPY is a six-month national professional development program that helps emerging Australia writers develop their manuscripts, learn about how the Australian publishing industry works, and have the opportunity to meet with high-profile agents and publishers. HARDCOPY is founded on the principle of pragmatic optimism: being aware of the challenges in a rapidly changing industry while remaining optimistic about possibilities. It takes around 30 writers from around Australia each year and you don’t need a completed manuscript to apply. Its first intake was in 2014 and it alternates between fiction and non-fiction manuscripts. This year is fiction.
So does it work? Do writers come out of HARDCOPY with strong manuscripts that excite agents and publishers? Heck yeah. Five manuscripts have been published so far. Bill Wilkie’s ‘The Daintree Blockade’ even winning the 2017 Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance worth a cool $25,000. Many more writers have found agents so there will be more published works to come.
But publication isn’t the main game of HARDCOPY. The program aims to develop long-term writing careers. It is all about empowering writers and building their skills, knowledge and contacts. When you graduate from the program you are invited into the inner sanctum – the facebook closed group of fellow alumni. A day doesn’t go by when a alumnus doesn’t post an achievement – an article published, a fellowship received, a commission granted, a competition won and even involvement in a prestigious writing organisation or festival. Shu-Ling Chua was a producer at The Noted Festival 2016, Nicole Gill now sits on the board of the Tasmanian Writers Centre and Ingrid Baring and Michelle Scott-Tucker are on the Committee of Management of Writers Victoria. It’s all heady stuff given we were all eager but mostly unknown emerging writers on entering the program. The writing game is tough and there are disappointments posted too, but the HARDCOPYers are always there to share the pain and provide the strength and support to battle on.
Early this year, the Australia Council announced that it would be funding HARDCOPY in 2018 and 2019. This means you non-fiction writers should start getting your manuscripts ready for next year’s submissions. Plus this year there are two new initiatives in the program: HC Digital which provides an opportunity for up to 10 writers to participate in the program via live-streaming who, for whatever reason, would find physically participating difficult. And also, in collaboration with the First Nations Australia Writers' Network, there will a First Nations scholarship which will provide travel and accommodation support for one First Nations writer.
For more information, visit the ACT Writers Centre's website https://www.actwriters.org.au/what-we-do/programs/hardcopy/. All events in the program are in Canberra. Applications for fiction manuscripts close on Friday 16 March.
Sarah Vincent is the Membership and Development Coordinator at Writers Victoria. Her memoir 'Death By Dim Sim' was published by Penguin Random House in 2017.